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Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

First Put the Oxygen Mask on Yourself!

When I was flying up to spend the Christmas hols with my family, I listened to the airline attendant’s ubiquitous warning, “In the case of emergency, an oxygen mask will drop down in front of you. First put the oxygen mask on yourself, before attending to those traveling with you.” I realized that this is good advice for bodyworkers also.

I have been offering reflexology for 31 years, and massage therapy for 25. And why am I still able to do this? Because I know how to use my hands and body, so as to protect myself from injury.

I am always pained when I hear of bodyworkers who had to forego their dream and kiss their financial investment goodbye two years out from graduating, because of repetitive strain injuries. It doesn’t have to be that way folks! First take care of yourself.

With reflexology, I change my body position a lot. I open and close all my sessions standing, using my body weight to introduce opening and closing relaxation techniques, thus reducing the load on my hands. Then I sit for a bit, stand up again when I feel the need; so many of the techniques can be varied to suit either position. And speaking of techniques – there are so many, and so many that require you to use different parts of your hands and different digits; it’s not all just thumb-walking and finger-walking.

Here are four things I constantly monitor while I am working:

1. Aligning my digits and my hand to my forearm, so as to avoid static or dynamic loading through unnatural angles.

2. Putting both hands to work; ie. avoiding always using just my “dominant” hand. I’ve trained both to be equally flexible and strong and effective.

3. Paying attention to pressure. It’s a fallacy that reflexology must be administered at a pressure that causes pain to the recipient and/or giver. The effectiveness of the work results from the size of nerve endings in the feet, not by sheer power. My youngest client – just three days old – proved that to me many years ago, as I lightly worked on his feet with my baby finger, all the while watching the screen monitoring his breathing. Contact was all that was necessary to smooth out his breathing and increase his oxygen uptake.

4. The relationship of the height of my chair to the height of the massage table. This involves lowering the chair when working the plantar surface and raising the chair when working on the dorsal, lateral and medial surfaces. (See #1 as to why.)

I know that I will be able to provide loving therapeutic touch for many years to come, because I first put the oxygen mask on myself. How do you take care of yourself so as to enjoy a long career offering touch?

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4 comments to First Put the Oxygen Mask on Yourself!

  • All good tips Karen! Along with physical self-care, I find it’s also important to put my emotional/mental oxygen mask on first in order to help others. Also, receiving reflexology helps me take care of myself. It also is a great reminder of what my clients experience when I work with them.

  • John Guinta

    Good advice taking care of one’s self before caring for others. I have had opportunities to work with and speak to groups of caregivers of the elderly and handicapped, and have found exactly that same self neglect within this population. We do a better job taking care of others when we take care of ourselves.

  • Julia

    I agree 100% with you Karen. Also, I learnt to say no to clients in order not to overbook myself for each day. We need to be in good shape physically and mentally to give the best healing therapy to clients.

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